What The Tom's Team Played This Weekend: 'Battletech'


I'm not exactly what you would call a competitive gamer. While I have cut my teeth on the tabletop and am known to be an aggressive player during certain board games (Eclipse, Game of Thrones, and Catan, I’m looking at you), I often shy away from anything remotely competitive when it comes to digital games.

My trigger finger is not as twitchy as it used to be, and I hardly have the time or the patience it takes to get remotely good at the vast majority of competitive online games. I’m more interested in games that transport me to a new world, ones that challenge the player to think tactically and strategically rather than see who can complete the most actions per minute.

Thankfully, such games are in plentiful supply these days. The latest game to satisfy my tactical role-playing itch is Battletech by Harebrained Schemes.

Mechs on a truly massive scale.Mechs on a truly massive scale.

Battletech is the latest IP in the long running sci-fi universe that started out as a tabletop game 30 years ago. During that time, the Battletech universe has expanded exponentially to include a galaxy of novels, pen and paper RPGs, and the beloved Mechwarrior franchise popular throughout the 90s. Giant humanoid robots in the year 3025 is the name of the game, and Battletech is perhaps the purest execution of that formula.

As the commander of a mercenary outfit  you are tasked with leading a “lance” of 4 massive  ‘Mechs and their pilots on and off the battlefield. The game is less a copy and more an adaptation of the classic tabletop game, and includes many mechanics inspired by XCOM.

Like XCOM, Battletech is a deeply tactical game and also requires the off-battlefield management of your team’s income and roster of pilots (some of which will surely die throughout the game). This should look familiar to XCOM players...This should look familiar to XCOM players...Unlike XCOM, however, Battletech forgoes delicate humans in favor of giant, lumbering metal machines. Sure your mech pilots may still be squishy, but they are encased in steel, driving a 30 foot tall robot equipped with lasers, missiles, and autocannons. Combat is often met head on and includes many big explosions as well as an occasional building collapse or two.

The massive mechs are given weight by thoroughly enjoyable battle animations, art direction, and sound design, all of which add up to an incredibly satisfying gameplay experience. Defeating an opponent requires numerous tactical decisions and a calculating strategy.

Each turn you must decide your mechs’ movement, rotation, and the weapons used in its attack. Managing your mech’s armament is no simple affair. Firing off too many lasers, missiles, or autocannon rounds could cause your mech to overheat, damaging the vehicle and cooking the pilot alive. Due to all of these variables, each round of combat requires judicious action, resulting in battles that can last quite a while. This has its upsides and downsides. Victory is hard won, but you get a nice kick of dopamine after toppling an enemy mech.

Each turn requires the player to think through many decisionsEach turn requires the player to think through many decisions

I’m okay playing through such a lengthy title. At $40, Battletech certainly provides great value.  Although I’ve only completed 7 to 10 missions, Steam says I’ve already clocked 17 hours playing the game. While the majority of that time was spent fighting against other mechs, a fair amount was spent role playing. I must have spent a good hour or so choosing my character’s background. The character creation system is as vast as the Battletech universe and provides a huge range of possibilities, including the option of creating a protagonist with a pronoun of “they”.

Additionally, the game is littered with random events that force you to make decisions that will have a profound impact on the rest of your playthrough. Should I tell the loan shark banks off or sweet talk them into a better interest rate? If a pilot has disobeyed my orders, should I punish them or reward them for their ingenuity. These storytelling elements are not unlike the “galaxy events” in Stellaris and leads me to believe that Battletech has a high degree of replayability.

Mech smash!Mech smash!
Battletech is a welcome entry in the tactics genre. Most games require players to avoid combat. Putting the player in the hotseat of a towering mech means combat, and enemy hits are unavoidable. It’s a fresh take on a highly popular genre. I'm excited to keep playing through the campaign and can’t wait to see what else Harebrained Schemes has planned in subsequent updates or DLC.

What are your thoughts on Battletech?  Are you cruising through the campaign or playing something else? Let us know in the comments below.   

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  • spdragoo
    Love Battletech, longtime tabletop player. While I miss some of the gameplay from the old MW2 trilogy, I'm definitely loving this game. And I have to agree, the depth of the in-game universe is probably going to lend itself to some replayability.
  • _Johnny5
    Anonymous said:
    While I miss some of the gameplay from the old MW2 trilogy, I'm definitely loving this game.

    I'm really looking forward to MechWarrior 5, which has a release scheduled for December 2018. Very excited for anything that can put me back in the pilot's seat.
  • SkyBill40
    I, too, am an old school tabletop player with the FASA boxed sets and house lore books to show for it. While I've not yet made the leap into this game, it does have my interest seeing as I've been following along since the initial announcement it was in development way back when. I play MWO and that's fun and all, but there's a direct control element missing and the "tactics" regularly used by the PUGs you drop with are a mixed bag or wholly absent altogether. That makes for some highly aggravating times and a game like this can only pin the blame for mistakes on you (and RNGesus, of course).

    I'm also interested in MW5... but how that all turns out remains to be seen. It does look promising thus far, but PGI hasn't always put their best forward if MWO is any measuring stick.
  • Eximo
    I need to do some troubleshooting this weekend, or perhaps wait on an update. I tried the first 'real' mission three times. Keeps crashing, unable to click things, and once an actual crash message. Made it through the tutorial and opening story mission just fine though.

    MWO is a fine combat simulator. I pretty much only do PUG drops and I usually try to gauge my personal performance against the team results. Lacks the charm of mission play though, just not enough variety, and I really hate grinding for C-Bills. I also don't like the win/loss tiered ranking system. Seems arbitrary for PUGs since win/loss depends on team performance.

    I kickstarted it, but they never really delivered on a decent meta-game. It pleases me to no end they got 'Duncan Fischer' back for their new Solaris game modes, though.

    I use a Summoner/Thor as my avatar on Tom's.
  • SkyBill40
    Anonymous said:

    MWO is a fine combat simulator. I pretty much only do PUG drops and I usually try to gauge my personal performance against the team results. Lacks the charm of mission play though, just not enough variety, and I really hate grinding for C-Bills. I also don't like the win/loss tiered ranking system. Seems arbitrary for PUGs since win/loss depends on team performance.

    I kickstarted it, but they never really delivered on a decent meta-game. It pleases me to no end they got 'Duncan Fischer' back for their new Solaris game modes, though.

    I use a Summoner/Thor as my avatar on Tom's.


    I don't disagree with your points on MWO. It's fine enough as you have said and while the variety of PUGs can make for a challenge, I really wish they'd tighten up the drop mix a bit. It sucks getting steamrolled and it also sucks having to carry, but I guess that's all part of how it goes. I've not bothered with Solaris as it doesn't have my interest at this point. Oddly enough, I have the S7 boxed set for TT. :P

    I noticed the 'mech avatar. My main in MWO is the stable of my longtime fave, House Liao: Cataphract.
  • Lutfij
    This article reminded me of Mech Warrior from the moment I read BattleMech ;) Thanks Johnny, for the walk down memory lane!
  • bit_user
    *sigh*

    I used to dream about stuff like this, back when we played the tabletop version. Too bad I don't have time for either, now.
  • ingtar33
    loving battletech, it's like 60-80 hours to play through the campaign, I'm on my second playthrough. It's wild to see good sound "tactics" matter in a game (something which was lost a bit in xcom). Furthermore, for pilot skills from the skill tree to make a huge impact in your playthrough. definitely the most addictive game play experience for me since~ FIFA16 I think.
  • mikewinddale
    I'm having so much fun with this game. I just got some great salvage and upgraded my lance from two Orions, a Zeus, and a Battlemaster to an Awesome, two Highlanders, and a King Crab.

    They're all fully loaded with maximum armor, medium lasers, and SRM-6s. And my pilots all have maximum tactics, gunnery, and morale. So I can take several targeted shots in a row, all with 86% chance to hit.

    So I just sprint in, shrug off one volley of enemy PPC and LRM, and then I've got 4 assault mechs in their faces with maximum short-range damage.

    Then I take out several mechs with one hit KOs via targeted shots to the center torso.

    If I run out of morale to take targeted shots, then all my assault mechs have maximum jump jets, so I just jump behind the enemy and perform alpha strikes to their rear torsos. Oh yeah, all my mechs have enough heat sinks to jump *and* fire an alpha strike, no problem.

    My lance is a wrecking ball. Hell, my Awesome can take out a 70 ton Grasshopper in one strike.
  • mikewinddale
    The one thing I don't like as much about Battle Tech is that compared to Mech Commander, the missions are much simpler and more straightforward. It's mostly just go in, kill this one enemy lance, and you're done. Maybe there's a second lance. But it's pretty short.

    By contrast, Mech Commander had much more complex missions with multiple waypoints. It felt much more strategic rather than tactical, in a way. Your missions weren't simply, "Go in and kill this one lance and you're done." Mech Commander was more like, "Here's a big battlefield, and we need you to accomplish these half a dozen different things."
  • swordmark45
    Been playing since the 24th. Due to knowing not only the Battletech universe, but the very first Mechwarrior. I have been in no rush to finish the campaign until I got an all Assault lance. That happened last night with a fully completed Argo as well.
    Now it is time to confront the end story on the campaign.
    This game is great and not for those that want things to happen instantaneously. This game is a thinking game as well as distruction in a rain of long ranged range missiles.